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Composer, manager ordered to pay damages over defamatory Facebook message

Voice coach Gillian Camenzuli Kerr took legal action after finding out that her former business partner and his brother were badmouthing her to third parties, including pupils of hers

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
5 October 2017, 6:07pm
Private conversations on Facebook messenger have been ruled defamatory by a court because they made allegations about an identifiable third party.

Voice coach Gillian Camenzuli Kerr, who is also the director of a local music school, took legal action after finding out that her former business partner and his brother, who are also involved in the local music scene, were badmouthing her to third parties, including pupils of hers.

Composer Emil Baylis and muscial act manager Mark Calleja Baylis were sued over comments written in online conversations with Camenzuli Kerr’s students.

Mark Calleja Baylis had claimed that the plaintiff had been ‘blacklisted’ by national broadcaster, PBS and by the European Broadcasting Union because of her attitude towards her students, alleging that the vocal coach was very strict and would subject her pupils to ‘great pressure.’

The court was informed that Calleja Bayliss had run an agency with Camenzuli Kerr before the business relationship broke down.

The respondents had argued that the claim could not be libellous as it concerned ‘a private conversation between two persons on Messenger.’

But magistrate Francesco Depasquale, deciding the case, disagreed, ruling that the fact that the comments had clearly been directed towards the Camenzuli Kerr, was enough to render them public.

Emil Calleja Bayliss had told one young singer that he did not “want  that woman anywhere close to me” which the court held was simply a an expression of opinion, which the composer had been entitled to make and was not defamatory.

But the same could not be said about the allegation made by Mark Calleja Bayliss, who told another student that Camenzuli Kerr had been ‘blacklisted’ by PBS and EBU due to the pressure she exerted on a budding singer, ruled the court.

Calleja Bayliss did not table any evidence supporting his allegations besides summoning his brother, Emil, to testify.

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale expressed dismay at the paucity of evidence provided by the defendant, pointing out that neither had representatives of either PBS or EBU been summoned to testify in support of the allegations, nor had any artists or their managers.

The court ruled that Mark Calleja Bayliss’s comments were defamatory and intended solely to harm the plaintiff’s reputation, which was, however tempered by the allegations’ limited audience.

Calleja Bayliss was ordered to pay  Ms Camenzuli Kerr the sum of €500 by way of libel damages.

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...